Growing up I saw a lot of beautiful Indonesian textiles, like the cloths my mom used for her Javanese dancing or when we went to family weddings in Indonesia. A few years ago I found out there's a huge difference in the process of making the different traditional Indonesian textiles - and that they all have different names. The most known Indonesian textiles are: Batik, Ikat, Endek and Songket. Read more about Indonesian Ikat. I want to tell you the story of batik. And maybe after you read this, you'll love it as much as I do.
On the road to adulthood, I started to explore my Dutch-Indonesian roots. I had (and still have) a special interest in batik, which is not very strange - our whole house was full of batik. And there's was always somebody in our family wearing it. I learned more and more about batik from my mom, my family, textile friends and all the hours researching about batik in Indonesia en the Netherlands. Later on I found out that batik making is part of my family heritage. My mother's grandmother used to batik, and we still have beautiful cloths from her art. How awesome is that! Out of respect for this art, the makers and my family heritage I started my company LARAS in Indonesian textiles. I want to share the stories of these beautiful cloths and their makers. I want to make it possible for people to wear this beautiful art, let people proudly show their Indonesian heritage or their love for the art.
Batik- How it's made
The Indonesian textile batik is a culturtal heritage of the country – a pride of the nation. It’s even awarded as cultural heritage from UNESCO (oh yeah!). Local artists make these cloths all by hand with such dedication to their art. It's an art where skillfull artists hand-decorate cotton cloths with wax. It's a long process, you have to be very patient: after they put all the wax on the cloth, it's time to put the cloth in the dye bath. So now the parts with no wax will turn the color of the dye bath. The last part of the process is getting the wax off, so you can see the color difference. The result: a beautiful lively work of art. And this is only the process for 1 colored batik... Imagine a deep colored, 4 colored batik. This can take months.
The tradition of batik making was handed down from generation to generation, what a beautiful gift to learn from your mother! And the cloths are still used in the traditional way, for celebration of marriage, pregnancy or certain rituals. And they only use special designs for these special occasions. But also, nowadays, the batik cloths are used to wear for everyday life.
There are different methods to design a batik cloth; Canting (with a waxpen) which creates batik tulis, Tjap or Cap (with a waxstamp) which creates batik tjap. My focus in this story and for my company LARAS is the handmade batik, so only Canting (waxpen) and Cap (waxstamp).
Batik Tulis: The 'canting' (wax pen) is used to create the designs. They put the hot wax in the container of the pen and start drawing on the cloth. This is a very difficult and time consuming process, only to create the best quality of batik. Making a cloth can take months.
Batik Tjap/ Cap: They use copper stamps to create the design on the cloths, this makes the process less time consuming than Batik Tulis.
It is quite commenly they use both methods - Tulis and Cap - to produce a piece of cloth.
Traditional - modern
The whole process like explained above is the traditional way to make batik. Nowadays there are some new techniques to apply the dye. First they apply the wax on the cloth with the waxpen or waxstamp en then they apply the dye on the cloth with a paintbrush instead of putting the cloth in the dye bath. This technique is called batik Tulis Colet.
Learning how to batik
I learned how to batik at Batik Winotosatro in Yogyakarta, I really love this place! With such skillfull teachers who make such beautiful batik. You know it's the real deal when you read this on their website: "You will only find traditional hand waxed batik at Batik Winotosastro. We are committed to preserving our cultural heritage, not as in a museum, but as a living art form. Not only the patterns themselves, but the actual process of waxing and dyeing the cloth by hand. Batik Winotosastro is honored to be a part of an ancient history as 5th generation traditional batik makers in the royal court city of Yogyakarta."
This article is just a summary of my research on batik. If you want to read more about batik:
- UNESCO list batik as Indonesian cultural heritage
- What is batik
- Step-by-step process of making batik
- Weavers' stories from island southeast asia - Roy W. Hamilton
- The dyers art ikat, batik, plangi - Jack Lenor Larsen
- Batik: fabled cloth of Java - Inger McCabe Elliott
- How to distinguish batik tulis and cap and printed fabric
- Information about Yogyakarta
If you have more sources for information about batik, please let me know in the comments.